My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean: A History
"My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" is a folk song originated from Scotland and was believed to be written about the exile of the grandson of King James, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, more known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Charlie was born on December 31, 1720, in Rome, Italy and died on January 31, 1788, in the same city. Bonnie is a colloquial term which means good, fine, pretty, and attractive.
Once upon a time, there was a massive war erupted in the Highlands of Scotland. It was a battle between Georgian English in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Jacobites, those who supported Charlie which was mostly Highland Scots. On April 16, 1746, the two teams fought against each other on Culloden Moor, Scotland. Prince Charlie’s army was defeated. He escaped for his life and ended up on the high seas. He had a price on his head of £30000, but the remaining Jacobites never betrayed him.
During the exile, Charlie met Flora. She felt sorry for what happened to Charlie. She asked for help from some people and took Charlie secretly to the Isle of Skye. They took the boat along with the few men and people have never heard of them since then. This story has inspired many songs and stories to this day. The Jacobite was said to have written this song in honor of Charlie's name. They seemed to use the term bonnie in purpose to cover up the real reference to the song. People could easily tell the song as a love song where the narrator is a wife who lost his husband at sea, as the word bonnie can also refer to a woman or a man.
There are versions of the song where the word “Bonnie” was replaced by “Barney.” Watersons, an English singing group sang a song called “My Barney Lies over the Ocean” on their 1975 album. Irish comedians favored the version of A.L. Lloyd when he said: “My Barney” in the 1860s. American university harmony students in 1880s remade the song to what was known today as “My Bonny Lies over the Ocean.”